Drew Gardner lived in a room on the top floor of a decrepit old house, situated on a street she didn’t feel entirely safe walking down after dark. She meant to move somewhere more upscale and ‘artsy’ when she had the money. If she ever had the money. Stacks of canvases took up most of the space in the apartment, leaving just enough room for her and the dog to exist alongside them.
The dog was a mean, snapping little thing, a strange looking mutt whose parentage was inconceivable just by looking. She’d named it Napoleon, despite a friend’s insistence that accounts of the historical figure’s short stature were exaggerated. He’d followed her home one day and never left, keeping her company while she painted. Drew had etched out an unsteady existence like that, selling almost enough paintings to pay her rent and then making up the rest with the help of a temp agency.
And then the girl moved in. It was inevitable, of course, that someone would eventually take the room next to hers over after the last tenant, Johan, had been evicted for unpaid rent. Drew ran into her in the hall that first day, a beautiful girl carrying a box marked “FRAGILE” and humming melodically to herself. She smiled radiantly at her as she passed, and Drew thought of nothing but that smile for the rest of the day. For weeks she heard a woman’s voice filtering in from the adjacent room. It wasn’t quite a pretty voice, a bit too high and wandering in and out of proper tune, but nevertheless it was an interesting voice. The sort of thing you’d hear on albums that were relegated to the ‘novelty’ section of a record store. She saw the girl occasionally but never mustered anything more forward than a polite greeting when the two of them met in the hall. She had to be careful with that sort of thing.
Drew finally found out her name, Iris Henderson, on a dropped piece of mail downstairs, then instantly felt ashamed for looking.